Time Capsule: Remington Model 742

Story and Photographs by Tom Claycomb III

If you research Benjamin Franklin, he had a lot of good quotes. The one that I really like is

“Don’t be the first to embrace the new nor the last to discard the old.”

I’m an outdoor writer so I test a lot of new gear. Every year the manufacturers bombard us with things that we cannot live without. I’m a willing victim! But, hey, what’s wrong with the bow, gun, tent and backpack that I bought last year and which was supposed to be the latest and greatest?

When I think back to 50 years ago I’m reminded of the above. My father told me his Remington Model 742 was a great deer rifle. In case you didn’t know, the 742 is a semiautomatic. He dropped two bucks within seconds of each other numerous times. His theory was that with one shot, the deer can’t pinpoint where the sound came from, but if you’re shooting a bolt-action rifle, the second buck will pinpoint you when you rack in the second bullet. He will be long gone before you get that shot in.

The Remington 742, also known as the Woodmaster, is a semiautomatic rifle that was produced by Remington Arms from 1960 until 1980. It featured a rotary breech block and side-ejection port, as well as a free-floating barrel.

So of course, my first rifle was a Remington 742 BDL Custom Deluxe that I bought with the earnings from my newspaper route. Years later, everyone made fun of me for having a semiauto since they don’t group as well as a bolt-action. I was ridiculed for years, despite shooting my first five to 10 turkeys in the head with it – and some of those were up to 140 paces away. It couldn’t have been too inaccurate.

Eventually, I was convinced that I needed to upgrade to a Remington 700 bolt-action. I got it and was proud as a peacock. But then a few years later, the AR-15 craze hit and became the new rage. Maybe Dad was right after all. Semiauto long rifles are the ticket. Everyone should have just listened to him 55 years ago.

I guess I’ll just always be out of style. Now I carry a bolt-action like some prehistoric cave-dwelling hunter while everyone else is carrying souped-up, tricked-out AR-15s. Maybe I’m just destined to be a nerd. Maybe I need to re-read the ol’ Ben Franklin quote “ … don’t be the last to discard the old.” Sometimes I’m so far ahead that I’m behind. And sometimes I’m so far behind that I end up being ahead. ASJ

Photo 1 Remington 742 Tom Claycomb III
The author’s first Remington 742 BDL Custom Deluxe.


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